Me: I’ve started Watchmen, and it’s great.
Friend: The movie was so. very. desperate. I felt a little molested when I left. Granted, I watched it in IMAX, so the 3-story blue schlong was part of it.
Friend: Literally, it was a dick three stories tall.
I think we can all agree that there was absolutely no other way to begin this review.
Finishing Watchmen is a small victory in my quest to keep a mildly ambitious list of 2013 reading resolutions, which also include spending a little time with biographies, poetry and historical nonfiction. (Let’s all pause for a moment to be collectively not surprised that I started with the graphic novel.) Watchmen is also arguably the most famous graphic novel of all time, an accolade I’m basing on the fact that it was recommended to me by no fewer than three people, and has a substantial number of glowing blurbs on its back cover. If I was going to read a graphic novel, this seemed the obvious place to start.
At the risk of provoking a nerd outcry (and in the interest of explaining the novel to those who haven’t read it) Watchmen is sort of like a really dark The Incredibles. It takes place in a fictional 1985, eight years after the Keene Act outlawed “costumed adventuring” by vigilantes not in the employ of the U.S. government. The novel opens with the death of the Comedian, a former member of both the Minutemen (a 1940s group of masked avengers) and the Crimebusters (the Minutemen’s much more horribly named successors). The Comedian’s death, a probable homicide, leads us to Rorschach (another former Crimebuster, and our protagonist of sorts), who is convinced that someone is purposefully killing masks. The rest of the novel is a whodunit for this mysterious killer, as well as a biography-slash-memoir of the masked avengers, and a fairly timeless commentary on the ills of society and the threat of nuclear destruction (despite being fictional, this 1985 still includes a Soviet war in Afghanistan). Although it isn’t particularly hard to follow, it would be fair to say that Watchmen has a lot going on.